An-sky: Jewish Writer, Russian Revolutionary
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Part of the Yiddish Book Center's Online Lecture Series
Lecture 1 – Finding a Voice in Russian and Yiddish
Scrappy, self-educated, and the child of a poor single mother, An-sky, like many others in his generation of late-nineteenth-century shtetl Jews, learned how to take advantage of whatever opportunities came his way to make his voice heard. In the process, he adopted his strange, hyphenated pseudonym, and he became an effective listener, someone to whom everyone wanted to confess.
Lecture 2 – From Moses to Marx: Adapting Talmudic Study for Radical Purposes
Written while he lived in Switzerland among radical students from the Russian Empire (including Lenin), An-sky’s novel "Pioneers" tells the story of runaway yeshiva students who bear a strong resemblance to the real-life radicals the author knew–living away from home, trying on new selves, and playfully drawing on kabbalah and rabbinic word games to justify their ideologies.
Lecture 3 – The Dybbuk, the Golem, and the Ethnographer
"The Dybbuk" came out of An-sky’s experience as an ethnographer recording Jewish traditions in the Russian Pale of Settlement, as well as his time as a journalist covering the Beilis blood libel trial in Kiev, in which a Jewish worker, falsely accused of murdering a Christian child to use his blood in matzo, was barely acquitted at the end of notorious legal proceedings. It’s a dark play, because this was a dark time for Jews and others.
Lecture 4 – Broken Tablets: Documenting War and Revolution
As an aid worker to the embattled Jewish communities of Austria-Hungary at the start of World War I, An-sky saw tremendous violence; as an official in the Provisional Government established after the Russian revolution of February 1917, he tasted power. He watched his enemies and some of his own friends justify brutal action in the name of their political ideals. His war memoir and his final writings show that he continued to believe that he could listen and speak effectively to both his revolutionary comrades and his opponents.
- 2020-03-26 14:44:45
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